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Where are GMOs grown and banned?

"[H]ypocrisy rules: Europe imports over 30 million tons per year of corn and soy-based animal feeds, the vast majority of which are genetically modified, for its livestock industry.
"If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.

At a Glance

Genetically modified crops are grown in 28 nations around the world, while nearly three dozen nations prohibit or ban their cultivation. GMO bans received considerable attention in 2015, when a majority of the European Union nations decided to block the cultivation of new GMOs within their borders and Russia issued a ban on both cultivation and imports.

But most of the nations that prohibit GMO cultivation still allow GMO products – particularly animal feed – to be imported. The nations of Europe, for example, import 30 million tons of GM grain annually. Many other nations – China, Japan and Canada for example – restrict GMO products, but only until they pass regulatory standards.

Science and Politics

Eighteen million farmers in twenty-eight nations around the world — 20 developing countries and 8 industrialized nations — cultivate GMO crops on nearly 450 million acres. 4.94 billion acres have been planted since the first GM crops were approved in 1996.

source: www.isaaa.org
source: www.isaaa.org

More than 50% of the genetically engineered crops are soybean; corn (maize) represents 30%; cotton is 13%; canola is 5%. Approximately 53% of the crops are engineered for herbicide tolerance, with another 33% for stacked traits, usually including herbicide tolerance. 14% are insect resistant using the Bt trait.

The vast majority of the crops are grown in a dozen nations, led by the United States with more than 175 million acres. Brazil is second with 110 million acres. Other top GMO producers as of 2015 are Argentina (61 million), India (29 million), Canada (27 million), China (10 million), Paraguay (10 million), Pakistan (7 million), South Africa (7 million), Uruguay (4 million), Bolivia (1 million) and the Philippines (1 million). The other 16 nations each has half a million acres or less. Those nations are: Australia, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Mynamar, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sudan.

On the flipside, there are dozens of nations that prohibit the cultivation of GM crops. Anti-GMO sites, which track this statistic, have different estimates, including: “GMO Crops Now Banned in 38 Countries Worldwide” or “Twenty Six Countries Ban GMOs – Why Won’t the U.S?”

Russia is the most populous country to ban both the cultivation and importation of GM crops; in 2014 it banned the importation of biotech crops, and in officially banned their cultivation, with an exception allowed for scientific research. It is more common – though still rare – for a nation to prohibit the cultivation of biotech crops within its borders. That was a step taken in 2015 by 19 of the 28 nations that make up the European Union, creating de facto bans in those nations.

Under 2015 E.U. regulations, countries have the right to block cultivation of GMO crops within their borders on a case by case basis. Using this opt-out process, 19 members, including Germany and France, voted in late 2015 to prohibit the cultivation of eight new biotech crops awaiting approval from regulators.They also chose to prohibit cultivation of the one GMO crop – a version of maize, MON810, which is resistant to the European corn borer – already approved for cultivation in the E.U. It is mostly grown in Spain and Portugal. These nations’ opt-out letters can be found here.

Although the E.U. does not grow GMOs, it’s one of the world’s biggest consumers of them. Every E.U. nation imports them. More than 30 million tons of biotech corn and soy for livestock feed are imported each year making Europe the largest regional consumer of GMOs in the world.

Screenshot at May 11 15-28-54 copy

Here’s a rundown of nations with GMO prohibitions:

  • Algeria: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
  • Austria: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Azerbaijan: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
  • Belize: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
  • Bhutan: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
  • Bulgaria: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Croatia: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Cyprus: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Denmark: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Ecuador: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
  • France: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Germany: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Greece: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Hungary: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Italy: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Kyrgyzstan: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
  • Latvia: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Lithuania: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Luxembourg: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Madagascar: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
  • Malta: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Moldova: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
  • Netherlands: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales (United Kingdom) : Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Norway: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Peru: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
  • Poland: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Russia: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
  • Saudi Arabia: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
  • Serbia: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
  • Slovenia: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
  • Switzerland: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
  • Turkey: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
  • Ukraine: Cultivation banned (though laws are widely ignored). Imports allowed.
  • Venezuela: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
  • Wallonian Region (Belgium): Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.

gmo_world_map_large
Source: prevent disease.com

The Takeaway

When nations ban the importation or cultivation of GMO products, such moves are generally driven not by science, as the independent science organizations in every major country have come out with public statements that GM products are safe. Other factors are trade protectionism, pressure from activists, public uneasiness or a desire to protect a country’s image—such as the French belief that genetic crops could “contaminate” the country’s reputation as a world food capital. As is often the case with GMOs, the situation in the European Union suggests how divisive and political this issue has become.
The EU has witnessed numerous skirmishes between scientists and politically-based opposition. Scottish leaders, for example, admitted that their decision to opt out of GMO cultivation was based on marketing concerns, rather than science. And when the European Commission’s science adviser, Anne Glover, spoke in favor of the science of genetic engineering, she found herself out of a job following intense lobbying by opposition groups. Bans almost always run counter to the advice of scientists and agricultural experts in the nations where they are implemented.


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